Xiaolin Zheng is a nanoscientist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer whose inventions are on the leading edge of a solar power revolution that could allow people to harness sustainable energy like never before.
Chinese nanoscientist and Stanford professor Xiaolin Zheng leads a research team that created a groundbreaking invention that unlocks the practical potential of solar power. The team created solar cells in the form of flexible stickers-only a tenth of the thickness of plastic wrap. The skinny, bendable solar cells produce the same amount of electricity as rigid ones. Since solar stickers are lighter, they will be easier and less expensive to install. And because they are extremely flexible, they can be attached to any surface-the back of a mobile phone, a skylight, a wall, a curved column. Zheng predicts peel-and-stick solar cells could one day paper the sides of buildings, cover sidewalks to light walkways, energize home security systems, and help power solar cars or planes. Along with industrial uses for the flexible solar cells, Zheng envisions people being able to stop at their corner store to pick up a pack of solar cells the way one buys batteries today.